For the last few years, I’ve been saying that I feel like it’s been a bad year for film. This year, that trend continues, and I feel like I haven’t seen very many films. I missed the festival again, so that takes away yet another outlet. Many of the films I liked this year were released in theatres in late 2015, and one that made my “top 5” list is actually a 2013 film. But I’m into talking about movies that I’ve seen in 2016, and the release date isn’t as important to me.
This year, few films really stand out as films I will think about and love forever. But if I had to pick a top five, they’d be these ones.
I’ve written, before, about the booklet I had as a teenager: Those Irish Holmes’, by F. M. Emerson Holmes. The booklet was a family tree of all the descendants of Andrew and Susan (Susannah) Holmes, who came to Canada from Cavan County, Ireland, in 1845.
A few weeks ago, I got hit with a bit of a genealogy bug after letting it sit for a while and I started finishing up my revision to that booklet. Basically, I’ve tracked down almost all of the original names in the book and updated them with the latest information. Unsurprisingly, in the 35 years since the book was first published a large number of the people documented have since died, including F. M. Emerson himself.
Newer generations are harder to find the details about. Sites like Ancestry don’t share details on anyone marked as still living although you can occasionally find a name in the most recent census (the Canadian 1921 census is the most recent census that’s publicly-available).
As an aside: I feel like there’s been an up-tick in quality on how people have been using Ancestry. Just a few years ago, it felt like a bit of a slog to pick and choose the good quality records from other people’s trees; recently, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much good-quality information people have been adding. One area that’s really been helpful is in regards to photos. When I started adding photos to my family tree a few years ago, it seemed at the time like photos were rare. Now I’m fascinated by the number of distant family members I find with really good-quality photos attached to them.
Also in the last few days, I’ve learned a few more details about a bit of a family mystery.
It took 16 years, but the Gilmore Girls writers have at last braved a big truth that needed telling: Rory Gilmore is a terrible, terrible human.
Finally, the reluctant poster child of white privilege — the girl who had everything handed to her on a shiny golden platter — was dealt a dilemma consuming enough to bring her universe crashing down.
The real world.
Rory’s belated quarter-life crisis is strangely satisfying to watch. She was never equipped for life after college. Throughout the series, her doting family and medicated townsfolk hailed her as an infallible angel, praising her smallest achievements.
She coasted through young adult life, her expensive education, car and rent all paid for, never once flipping burgers or folding clothes like the rest of us did.
But despite a frustrating lack of maturity, Rory was always presented in a positive light, assumed by all to achieve great things.
I’m still pretty sure I’m not going to see the movie because of the whitewashing. If not for that, this movie has a lot of stuff that I’d be all over: amazing aesthetic, an interesting vision of future technology, a great female lead. I think it would have been exactly the kind of movie that’d work for me. But the studio ruined it with whitewashing. And I’m a bit sad about that.
Others have pointed out that the trailer is hella appropriative: “The ratio of cool-Japanese-stuff to Japanese people in the trailer is like 2000:1. There is nothing easier for Hollywood to do than disinclude the Asian faces, nothing.”.
The trailer for Valerian looks visually impressive, but I fully expect it to be narratively simplistic (which is sort of what I think of The Fifth Element: I really wanted the film to be deeper than it was).
Since the cancellation of Hannibal, Penny Dreadful has been my favourite show. Now it’s ended, too, and I am living in a universe made out of sad.
What’s it about? A group of characters in the 1890s — some are recognizable characters
from Victorian (and pre-Victorian) fiction, including Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray,
and others are unique creations, such as Vanessa Ives and Mr. Lyle — have bonded together to fight monsters. Not post-modern, broody monsters, but classic Victorian “separated from God”-style evil monsters. The first season is about vampires, and the second season is about witches, and then the third season returns to vampires. But there are some devils and werewolves and reanimated creatures thrown in along the way. There’s rather a lot of blood and rather a lot of sex, but I’m okay with that.
The show has a number of qualities that appeal to me. It’s dark, and intense. It has a writing style that I just find to be sublime. At times, I think I love it just because I enjoy watching
Vanessa Ives’ intense expressions. One of the things I particularly love is the show’s
willingness to take extended amounts of time just building a particular feel.
There’s a sequence at the end of the first episode of the second season that illustrates
this well. Vanessa, who is essentially the show’s long-suffering hero, is praying. The show
touches on religion frequently, and Vanessa’s faith is an important element of her
character: it’s really the only thing that gives her succour. But the scene cross-cuts
between Vanessa, and the second season’s primary villain, a satanic witch who is similarly
engaged in incantations. The two scenes cut back and forth, rising in intensity. It goes
on for minutes, an amazingly long time to take for a story beat that does absolutely
nothing to advance the plot. But it sets the mood. It’s just about setting the mood.